Lewis McCrary over at the national interest has pointed me towards an interesting article written by Robert Cottrell for the Financial Times. In a piece largely concerning the benefits the Internet has brought to the reader, Cottrell has noted something I have been thinking about for a while:
As a gross generalisation, academics make excellent bloggers, within and beyond their specialist fields. So, too, do aid workers, lawyers, musicians, doctors, economists, poets, financiers, engineers, publishers and computer scientists. They blog for pleasure; they blog for visibility within their field; they blog to raise their value and build their markets as authors and public speakers; they blog because their peers do.
To read the blog of a political scientist, or an anthropologist, or a lawyer, or an information technologist, is the next best thing to reading their mind; better, in some ways, since what they have to say emerges in considered form. These are the experts who, a couple of decades ago, would have functioned as sources for newspaper journalists. Their opinions would emerge often mangled and simplified, always truncated, in articles over which they had no final control.
Now we can read them directly, and discover what they actually think and say. We can know, for example, what lawyers are saying about a new appointment to the Supreme Court; what political scientists expect from an election; how computer scientists evaluate Apple’s updated operating system; what economists expect from a new government policy. The general reader has access to expertise that was easily available, a decade ago, only to the insider or the specialist.
While much of the discourse surrounding the demise of traditional media is concentrated on eroding revenue streams and diversification, the erosion of the media’s monopoly on experts is going on in the background.
Juan Cold, one of my favourite bloggers, is a brilliant example. While you can catch Professor Cole on TV quite a lot, you can also read his thoughts daily on his very popular blog on Middle East matters. The traditional media models no longer have a monopoly on the dissemination of the views of the experts. The experts are no longer just trotted out into the public for a quick sound bite or quote whenever necessary. That we can read the insights of the like of Professor Cole whenever they feel it is worth the trouble, rather than when the traditional media think it is most beneficial to them, is a very exciting aspect of the new media landscape.